Confidentiality of Records (FERPA)
Notice Regarding Confidentiality of Student Records
The Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) affords students certain rights with respect to their education records.
Students have the right to:
- Inspect and review their educational records within a reasonable time period.
- Request an amendment to education records they believe are inaccurate or misleading.
- Consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information contained in their records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent.
- File a complaint with the U.S Department of Education concerning alleged failures to comply with the requirements of FERPA.
If students wish to have their records kept confidential, they must notify Registration and Records.
Questions concerning students' rights under FERPA should be directed to the Registration & Records Office or the Office of Enrollment Services.
A federal law designed to protect the privacy of educational records, to establish the right of students to inspect and review their educational records, and to provide guidelines for the correction of inaccurate and misleading data through informal and formal hearings.
This act is enforced by the Family Policy Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, Washington DC. The Family Policy Compliance Office is the office within the Department of Education that administers FERPA and is responsible for providing technical assistance on FERPA to educational institutions.
Notes: FERPA is applicable to both K-12 and higher education. The Family Policy Compliance Office is responsible for both levels of education.
The main difference in FERPA between these two levels of education is that the rights ascribed to the “student” at the higher education level are the parents at the K-12 level. As will be made clear in subsequent texts FERPA rights are granted to parents until their son/daughter reaches the age of 18 or begins attending an institution of high education regardless of age.
The term “eligible students” found in the law (but not used in this text) refers to a student who has gained FERPA rights. At Evergreen once a student is offered or denied admission he/she is considered an eligible student.
The Essence of the Act is that College students must be permitted to inspect their own educational records.
School officials may not disclose personally identifiable information about students nor permit inspection of their records without their written permission unless such action is covered by certain exceptions permitted by the Act.
An Education Record is any record, with certain exceptions, maintained by an institution that is directly related to a student or students. This record can contain a student’s name, or students’ names, or information from which an individual student, or students, can be personally (individually) identified.
These records include: files, documents, and materials in whatever medium (handwriting, print, tapes, disks, film, microfilm, microfiche) which contain information directly related to students and from which students can be personally (individually) identified.
If you have a record that is:
- maintained by your institution;
- personally identifiable to a student (directly related to a student and from which a student can be identified); and
- not one of the excluded categories of records…..then you have an education record, and it is subject to FERPA.
What an Education Record Is Not
"Sole possession” notes
Law enforcement unit records
Records maintained exclusively for individuals in their capacity as employees
Records of individuals who are employed as a result of their status as student (work-study) are education records.
Doctor-patient privilege records
Personally identifiable means data or information which include:
- The name of the student, the student’s parents, or other family members
- The student’s campus or home address
- A personal identifier (such as a social security number or student number)
- A list of personal characteristics or other information which would make the student’s identity easily traceable
When a student reaches the age of 18 or begins attending a postsecondary institution regardless of age, FERPA rights transfer to the student.
Parents may obtain directory information only at the discretion of the institution.
Parents may obtain non-directory information (evaluations, class schedules, etc.)
once the institution has signed consent from their student.
Evergreen defines directory information as:
- the student’s name,
- telephone number,
- dates of attendance,
- date and place of birth,
- major field of study,
- participation in officially recognized activities and sports, degrees,
- the most recent educational institution attended by the student.
Details regarding student records at The Evergreen State College are available on the College's Student Affairs policies web site. Student records and directory information are accessible to members of the faculty and staff who have a legitimate need to know this information.
Many people have a “confidential” indicator on their directory information. You cannot release directory information to third parties (parents, spouses, partners, friends, employers, or others) unless the student gives written consent to do so.
Details regarding student records at The Evergreen State College are available on the College's Student Affairs policies web site. Student records and directory information are accessible to members of the faculty and staff who have a legitimate need to know this information. If a student has requested confidentiality, you have a responsibility to protect this information. In fact, if a student has asked for confidentiality, you should not acknowledge that this person is even a student to outside inquirers. If a student has not asked for confidentiality, you are allowed to release the items defined as directory information. All other information requires written consent of the student. Evaluations, program and course registration, schedules of programs and courses should not be released to anyone other than the student since it is not defined as directory information.
FERPA Dos and Donts
DO NOT release directory information on a student without checking Banner or the Office of the Registrar to see whether the information has been flagged for non-release.
Do check with the Office of the Registrar before disclosing any student educational record information to third parties outside the institution.
Do refer all subpoenas or IRS summons or other legal process requests for education records to the Office of the Registrar.
Do obtain signed, written permission from the student before sharing educational record information with parents or others outside the institution.
DO NOT request information from an education record custodian, or access the student’s records by computer, unless you have a legitimate educational interest to access the information.
DO follow the confidentiality provisions of FERPA by not sharing education records information with your colleagues unless a legitimate educational interest exists.
DO NOT put purely personal notes (for example, from a committee meeting or faculty recommending students for a particular program) in the student’s file, because those notes will become accessible to the student. Such records can be kept confidential only if they are kept in the sole possession of the maker and are not accessible or revealed to any other person. Official committee minutes are likely to be considered accessible.
DO NOT post students’ papers, scores or evaluations in a public place on which names, Social Security numbers, or other personal identifiers are displayed. If posted, use a code known only to you and the student.
DO remember that medical, mental health and law enforcement records should not be in the student’s file with the student’s education records. Medical and mental health records supporting an accommodation for a disability should be forwarded to Access Services for Students With Disabilities in an envelope marked confidential, and law enforcement records should be kept in the Office of Public Safety.
DO NOT release information about a student disciplinary matter without conferring with the Vice President for Student Affairs office.